The Kentucky Anthology: Two Hundred Years of Writing in the Bluegrass State

By Wade Hall | Go to book overview

Muhammad Ali,
with Richard Durham
from The Greatest: My Own Story

One man who needs no introduction is Muhammad Ali, a man of strength, intelli-
gence, cunning, and principle who rose from a black ghetto in West Louisville to
become not only one of the best-known athletes of the century but ultimately a global
spokesman for peace, tolerance, and reconciliation. In The Greatest: My Own Story
(1975), the autobiography he wrote with his friend Richard Durham, Ali recalls the
pride he felt after winning an Olympic gold medal in 1960 and how, after an episode
of racism and intimidation in his hometown, his feelings turned to shock, pain, and
bitterness. This excerpt concludes with his violent encounter with a motorcycle gang
and a thug named Frog, whose deeds cause Ali to commit a desperate act.

So what I remember most about the summer of 1960 is not the hero welcome, the celebrations, the Police Chief, the Mayor, the Governor, or even the ten Louisville millionaires, but that night when I stood on the Jefferson County Bridge and threw my Olympic Gold Medal down to the bottom of the Ohio River.

A few minutes earlier I had fought a man almost to the death because he wanted to take it from me, just as I had been willing to fight to the death in the ring to win it.

It had taken six years of blood, blows, pain, sweat, struggle, a thousand rounds in rings and gyms to win that medal, a prize I had dreamed of holding since I was a child. Now I had thrown it in the river. And I felt no pain and no regret. Only relief, and a new strength.

I had turned pro. In my pocket was my agreement with the ten Louisville millionaires, our “marriage contract” for six years. I felt as sure as day and night that I would one day be the World Heavyweight Champion. But my Olympic honeymoon as a White Hope had ended. It was not a change I wanted to tell the world about yet. I would be champion. My own kind of champion.

The honeymoon had started when my plane touched down at Standiford Field. They opened the door and my mother rushed up to hug me. Then my brother Rudy and Dad. I had been gone for twenty-one days, the most time I’d been away since the day I was born.

-630-

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